Learning Theory and Psychoanalysis

  • Eugene Wolf
Part of the Critical Issues in Psychiatry book series


In this eloquent and persuasive paper, Wolf explicates the differences between the classical conditioning theory of Pavlov and the operant conditioning concepts of Skinner, and their applications to psychodynamic theory and practice. He makes the telling point that for many people the traumatic life situations into which they are inextricably bound renders them just as immobilized, for all practical purposes, as dogs in a Pavlovian frame, and that this may explain why, like Pavlov’s dogs, they persist in their neurotic responses despite the fact that these responses are maladaptive. He suggests that transference and countertransference reactions can be seen as learned responses based on earlier stimuli, which then become generalized to similar ones in later life. He then comes to a formulation, essentially similar to Alexander’s concept of the corrective emotional experience, that stresses the therapist’s capacity to respond differently to the patient from the way previous human figures have done. Like Alexander and Marmor in the previous two papers, he stresses the mutual benefit that both psychoanalytic and behavioral psychiatrists can derive from an integration of both models.


Maladaptive Behavior Interpersonal Behavior Rewarding Outcome Therapeutic Situation Maladaptive Pattern 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eugene Wolf

There are no affiliations available

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